Waco Independent School District’s new superintendent is expected start the first week of June now that the school board has voted to officially hire him.

Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to offer Laredo ISD Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson a five-year contract. The vote follows a 21-day waiting period required by law after the board named Nelson the sole finalist in the district’s superintendent search earlier this month. The waiting period ended Wednesday.

“I’m thankful to the Waco ISD board of trustees for the opportunity to be a part of such a special school community in our state,” Nelson stated in a press release from the district. “I am elated to serve the students and staff of Waco in this critical and unique role as superintendent of schools and I look forward to meeting our school community stakeholders in the near future.”

Nelson will finish up responsibilities in Laredo ISD by June 2 before coming to Waco, the release states. He will replace Superintendent Bonny Cain, who is retiring after six years with the district.

Nelson’s contract wasn’t immediately available for release Thursday because he had not yet signed it. Once both parties have signed, the contract will be public, Waco ISD spokesperson Bruce Gietzen said. Nelson wasn’t at Thursday’s school board meeting.

“We brought in six individuals for interviews, and it very clearly and quickly became apparent we had the potential to bring in somebody who could be truly transformational in this community,” Board president Pat Atkins said before the vote. “He has the experience and talent to communicate with a number of diverse constituencies in the community and in Waco ISD. We’ve very blessed, lucky and excited to have him join us.”

Average salary

The average superintendent salary for 2016-17 is $142,154, according to a recent survey by the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Superintendent salaries for districts with fewer than 500 students averaged $94,920, and salaries in districts with more than 50,000 students averaged $308,814. Half of districts surveyed reported a salary of less than $123,015.

Nelson will be coming from an urban district with 33 campuses and more than 25,000 students to one with 26 campuses and more than 15,000 students. The Texas Association of School Boards named him the 2014 Superintendent of the Year.

Compared to the more than 80 percent of Waco ISD students who are economically disadvantaged, Laredo ISD students are 97 percent economically disadvantaged.

Nelson is a San Antonio native who speaks Spanish. While in Laredo, he cut the district’s personnel costs by more than $2 million, and 43 percent of Laredo’s schools earned recognized or exemplary academic ratings in 2010, according to his biography.

None of Laredo ISD’s campuses had improvement-required ratings for state academic standards this year, according to Texas Education Agency records. Waco ISD had seven campuses rate improvement required this year, one fewer than the year before.

“I would like to thank Dr. Cain for her exemplary service to WISD and wish her well in her upcoming retirement,” Nelson wrote in the press release. “I respect what she has accomplished throughout her impressive career and I look forward to continuing the challenge of leading Waco public schools to even higher levels of student success.”

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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